Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Gerard Depardieu, Tabu
Written by: David Magee and (book) Yann Martel
Running Time: 127 mins
Release date: 20th December 2012
Cinema is often accused, by elitists, as just entertainment for the masses and is ignored as an art form. In some cases, this is true but when you get to see a film as wondrous and visually appealing as Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, you want to get these elitists and make sure you rub their noses in it. Cinema, at its best, is an amazing art form that anyone can appreciate. And Life Of Pi deserves to be appreciated by everyone.
An author arrives at the home of an Indian living in Canada. He is told this man has an extraordinary story. The story is of a young boy called Piscine Molitor Patel, or to stop ridicule, Pi. Pi lives with his family in India and his father runs a hotel and a zoo. As Pi grows up he starts to question about religion, to the annoyance of his father.
With money becoming a problem, his father decides to move his family to Canada and sell his animals in North America. Hitching a lift on a cargo ship, they are soon in peril as a huge storm hits them, throwing Pi into the sea and becoming the sole survivor. Stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Pi soon discovers that he is sharing the lifeboat with the zoo’s Bengal Tiger called Richard Parker. Having to use his wits and the religion he experimented with in his younger years, Pi has to learn to live everyday, hoping to be found and hoping not to be dinner for the huge hungry cat that is now an important part of his life.
This is a magnificent tale of hope, friendship and faith. For a large majority of the film, we are sharing the life at sea of the young man and his unwanted companion and thanks to the brilliant performance of newcomer Suraj Sharma, you are with him every step of the journey. He captures Pi determination and courage with ease and you never once feel bored or tired of being with him. For a first timer, he is an amazing discovery.
The real stars of the film, however, are Ang Lee and cinematographer Claudio Mirando. Lee is a director who has always taken risks. Some have work (Crouching Tiger, Brokeback Mountain), some have failed (Hulk) but you know that he is an interesting director with an flair for the visuals and none more so than here. It is a testament of a truly great director that can take a tale of a boy on a boat with a tiger and turn it into one of the most engrossing and stunningly beautiful pictures of the year. He hooks you in from the first scenes and never lets go till the closing credits.
Mirando hasn’t had the track record of Lee, having only been cinematographer on Failure To Launch, Benjamin Button and Tron: Legacy but he will be a name to look out for. He has filmed a mouth-watering feast for the eyes. The colours and the images are simply stunning and it’s hard to think of another film that has this much depth and beauty in it, especially in the night time scenes, where the sea life suddenly become almost neon-like.
The other triumph of this film, and if you are regular reader of my reviews, you will know how much this pains me to say, but the 3D actually works here. Lee has used the gimmick to the full potential, giving us both depth and, particularly one scene, the sense of something literally coming out of the screen at you. This might be the only time I say this but if you choose to see this remarkable film (gulp!) see the 3D version.
This plays on all the emotions, it makes you think about life and the challenges it throws up at you and it also makes you smile. There are some shocking scenes and the CGI tiger is incredibly impressive. I was looking forward to seeing this, having been told it was an amazing film. Those people were not wrong. This is an amazing film and deserves every reward that it will surely be lauded with. And as we come to the end of 2012, this just might have managed to sneak into my top ten for this year. See it and be impressed.